Shadings of Wolfram/Yuuri, but mostly focusing on Conrad and Yuuri interaction. Birthday-fic for Snare, 2005.
by Mina Lightstar
The first thing Yuuri did after finding himself back in Shin Makoku was flee to his room for dry clothes. Or rather, that was the first thing he did of his own volition. Before that he had to endure GÃ¼nter's heartfelt -- and friendly -- greeting, and Gwendal's recitation of recent events in the kingdom, of which there was nothing of note. Yuuri had, of course, been expecting a certain blond fiancÃ© of his to appear, demanding to know why he'd been away so long, and maybe shake him once or twice. Wolfram had been notably absent from the courtyard and Yuuri had found himself at once relieved and disappointed. It was a confusing mixture of emotions -- but then, Wolfram confused Yuuri in a way no one else could.
"Ah, Heika! There you are."
Yuuri paused in the hallway, clothes still dripping a little from his appearance in the fountain. He turned around to see a welcome, familiar figure striding toward him. "Conrad!"
Conrad fell into step beside him, smiling warmly at Yuuri as was his wont. "Sorry I wasn't there to greet you. I was busy at the stables."
"That's okay." Yuuri smiled back. No matter how many times he was pulled away from his own world -- and sometimes it happened at the most inconvenient times -- seeing Conrad always made it better.
"What have we taken you from?" Conrad inquired as they continued on their way to Yuuri's chambers.
"Oh, nothing, really. I was at the mall with Murata and he was trying to pick up a girl. I fell in the fountain." He frowned. Many times he had tried to establish a pattern for his traveling between worlds, but the thought never got very far. The entire process seemed completely random, and he usually had other things to worry about. "Conrad?"
"Why am I here today? Nothing seems to be happening." Yuuri reflected on Gwendal's report that nothing was out of the ordinary. "I mean, there isn't anything wrong, is there?"
Conrad smiled at him again as they turned a corner and started down the hall leading to Yuuri's private rooms. "Yuuri," the man chuckled, putting a strong but gentle hand on his shoulder, "do we need that sort of excuse to see you? You are the Maou, after all. Why should the kingdom -- we -- be deprived of your presence for so long?"
Yuuri felt some heat rise to his face, and figured he was blushing. He lowered his head. "I guess so," he replied. "I mean, this is my world, too, I suppose." He touched the back of his head and laughed. "Though I really should start carrying some kind of backpack around so I can be prepared for this random world-hopping!"
Conrad laughed along with him. "Yes, that may be a good idea, Heika." The hand on his shoulder squeezed reassuringly.
"Well," Yuuri began, "I'm just going to change quick--oh." He stopped short, noticing the Mazoku standing outside his door, arms folded, expression aggravated. "Wolfram."
Conrad's hand left his shoulder, though not at all quickly. Yuuri wondered if he looked guilty, and then wondered why he should look or feel guilty; he hadn't done anything.
"Wolfram," Yuuri said louder, more in acknowledgement and less in surprise.
"Yuuri," the blond said in a tight voice.
"Well, I'll be off." Conrad smiled again, and gave Yuuri a pat on the shoulder. "Heika, GÃ¼nter will be sure that a splendid meal is prepared for you this evening."
"Eh? No, it's always good!" Yuuri cried with a grin. "They don't have to work harder just for me."
Conrad chuckled. "We'll see you at dinner, then." He waved to Wolfram and turned to head back up the hall.
Yuuri braced himself. Wolfram's jealousy was the kind you could feel in the air, could cut with a knife. "Wolfram!" he said with a smile, walking over and opening the door to his room. "You weren't in the courtyard to see me." He noted the pile of dry clothes set out on the bed, and wondered if Wolfram had anything to do with it.
"Why should I?" the blond muttered. "I always have to share all the time, anyway. And I know you always come here."
"Er," Yuuri said, and noted with some discomfort that Wolfram had followed him inside. The blond assumed Yuuri's rooms were his own, much to Yuuri's dismay. "Ah, Wolfram, I'm going to change."
"... Never mind." It wasn't that Yuuri cared, exactly; he changed all the time with the other guys in the locker room. It was just that Wolfram insisted strongly that they were betrothed, and Wolfram's firm, earnest view of their relationship made Yuuri a little uneasy. Not that he thought Wolfram would look, or take advantage... it was just weird. "I wonder if Murata is worried," he said, to distract himself from thinking about Wolfram peeking. It was only after he'd said it that he realized it might not have been the best idea.
"Who's Murata?" Wolfram demanded, coming around to the bed so he could stare hard at Yuuri's face.
"A friend," Yuuri replied uneasily, and berated himself for sounding remotely nervous about it. That kind of thing gave Wolfram all kinds of ideas, and Yuuri honestly didn't like seeing Wolfram upset, anymore than he liked seeing any of his other friends upset.
"Friend, hmm?" Wolfram didn't look convinced. "Is he from your world?"
"Well, yes. I was with him before I was called back here."
"Is that so?" Wolfram moved away and started to pace the room. "I suppose he's a good friend of yours, hmm? I bet you spend a lot of time with him."
Yuuri took advantage of Wolfram's distance to change quickly. As he removed his hooded sweater, he felt the object he still had there. A baseball, he realized, and as he pulled it out of the pocket, he remembered. Before meeting up with Murata and heading for the mall, Yuuri had been at practice. On his way out from changing in the locker room, he'd found a stray ball and had tucked it into his sweater to return later, as he'd been running late.
"Are you even listening to me, Yuuri?" Wolfram growled.
Yuuri hurriedly dropped his damp sweater onto the floor and set the ball on the bed. He used the dry shirt to muffle his unintelligible reply, which he hoped Wolfram would take as an affirmative.
"So then why don't you spend more time with me?" Wolfram demanded. "You can spend hours on end with your Murata or Weller, so why not me?" Yuuri waited and sure enough Wolfram added, "I'm your fiancÃ©, remember?"
"I do spend time with you!" Yuuri defended himself. "All the time!"
"Only when I -- I make it happen!" Wolfram retorted, planting himself in front of Yuuri. "Or when you have to go somewhere, and I make it a point to come with you!"
Yuuri swallowed, sensing where the argument was going. Wolfram wasn't easy to handle; his obvious affection for Yuuri (strange, given his initial anger over the accidental proposal) made arguing with him difficult. Yuuri was torn between being completely honest and not wanting to hurt the blond's feelings in any way. The fact was, Yuuri did not feel for Wolfram what Wolfram felt for him -- and at times encounters with the blond left Yuuri feeling utterly baffled.
"Wolfram," Yuuri ventured, "you know you're my friend."
"Friend," Wolfram tested the word, and made a face as though it tasted bitter. "You have so many friends, Yuuri. But I'm supposed to be your fiancÃ©. I'm supposed to be more."
His temples were beginning to throb; a headache was coming on. "Wolfram, I...." Many times, he had considered offering to break off the engagement, or inviting Wolfram to do so. Each time, he thought of the one time he had voiced those thoughts, and how Wolfram had reacted. It would have to be dealt with one day, but Yuuri could never bring himself to drag them into it again.
"You never do anything with me just because you want to," Wolfram went on angrily. "You hardly ever include me in anything. But you're always seeking out others' company -- and I see you all the time with Weller." There was raw jealousy in that last comment. Yuuri was never certain if Wolfram's relationship with Conrad wavered between hot and cold, or if it was just very, very cold.
"Ah, Wolfram, don't be angry." Yuuri tried to smile reassuringly, and reached for the baseball that was still on the bed. "I'm sorry if I hurt your feelings."
"Hurt my feelings?!" Wolfram's tone changed, morphed into indignant arrogance. He folded his arms and turned his nose up. "Why would I care what a wimp like you does with his time? It obviously can't be important if you don't need me around!"
Yuuri shook his head. Wolfram's mood-swing was both unbelievable and un/convincing/. "Wolfram, actually, I have a -- a present for you."
Wolfram paused mid-tirade, and he blinked. "Present?"
Anger drained itself from his body as spring melted winter. "For me...?"
"Uh huh." Yuuri pulled out the baseball -- it was a little dirty from a game or two -- and held it out with both hands. "Here."
Wolfram had seen them before, Yuuri knew. But watching the blond pluck the ball from his hands and inspect it thoroughly, you would think he'd never encountered one before.
Eventually he asked, "What am I supposed to do with this?"
Yuuri slouched, feeling deflated even though it had been an impromptu gift in the first place. "I just thought maybe you'd like a souvenir from my world. It's been with me since this afternoon."
Wolfram stared at the ball for a long time. Then he stared at Yuuri. Then the ball again. Finally, "You thought giving me a ball would make me feel better?"
"Er," Yuuri managed. "Well, I thought... I thought...."
Wolfram's fingers tightened around the baseball. "Yuuri, you wimp, you're impossible!" And with that, Wolfram stalked out of the room, slamming the door behind him.
Yuuri sighed, rubbed his head with both hands, and decided he needed some time to himself before dinner.
"Something wrong, Heika?"
Yuuri blinked, taking his eyes away from the kingdom below. He hadn't realized Conrad had joined him on the balcony. "Conrad. Um, why do you ask?"
"Well," the man said wryly, "you've sighed for the third time in less than two minutes. I just assumed."
"Oh," Yuuri laughed weakly. "Yeah, I guess." He looked back out over the railing. The view was incredible.
Conrad joined him. "Is it something I can help you with?"
Yuuri considered it. What couldn't he discuss with Conrad? "It's, well, it's Wolfram."
"Wolfram?" Conrad mused. "Has my brother done something?"
"Yes, but no, and maybe."
Conrad chuckled. "You might feel better if you just start at the beginning."
It was surprisingly easy to start after Conrad's invitation. By the end, Yuuri's mingled bafflement/frustration had come to the forefront.
"I don't get him! He gets so angry when I talk to anyone else, spend time with anyone else. But when I try and make him feel better, he just gets angrier and calls me a wimp. And he practically threw the baseball back in my face, too."
Conrad had listened patiently, looking thoughtful. "You gave him a baseball, hmm?"
"Yeah. But he didn't sound like he appreciated it very much. I thought it would calm him down, maybe interest him." Yuuri rubbed his forehead. "I know he doesn't like my world, but I thought maybe he would like the baseball because -- 'cause--"
"Because it's something important to you?" Conrad ventured.
"Yeah," Yuuri admitted. "Like, if I'm as important to him as he tends to act, why wouldn't he want to give my world and my interests a chance?"
"Wolfram is young," Conrad explained, "and spoiled, and stubborn. Everyone knows he can be difficult to deal with. But that's because he often doesn't like admitting how much he cares, or how much he appreciates a gesture. He covers up many emotions with anger and annoyance -- not always very well," Conrad added with a knowing smile.
Yuuri had to smile back. "Well, he isn't always that convincing." The smile was quickly gone, though. "But why does he have to go on like that and then insult me when I try to make things better?"
"Because he's just as confused as you are, I think."
Conrad rested his chin on one hand. "Wolfram often speaks of how you two are engaged--"
"It's all he speaks of, sometimes."
"--but anyone can tell that you remain uncertain. I don't blame you, because you aren't sure how you feel and I know you don't want anyone to be hurt.
"Tell me, how do you feel about Wolfram?"
Yuuri didn't have to ponder his answer. "He's my friend. I like him, I really do. But love? I don't -- I mean, I don't even really know him all that well and...."
Conrad nodded. "It's completely understandable. But when you make gestures like that -- giving him a gift, for example -- you confuse him. He's used to your hesitance about your proposal; giving him more than what he's come to expect puzzles him. I know it makes him happy, but he's no longer sure how to deal with you. Understand?"
Yuuri mulled over the words. "I guess I do. I just wish he'd said something nice about the baseball."
"Oh, I think he does treasure it," Conrad assured him with a chuckle. "I was wondering where he'd gotten that ball."
Yuuri blinked. "Huh?"
Conrad winked at him. "I saw him in the courtyard earlier this afternoon. He was sitting under a tree, tossing it up with one hand and catching it with the other."
"Really?" Yuuri was having a hard time picturing Wolfram playing with any ball, let alone a baseball from Yuuri's world. "Did he know you were watching him?"
"Oh, of course not." Conrad patted Yuuri on the shoulder. "But there you have it. Feel better?"
"Actually, yeah." Yuuri grinned. "Thanks, Conrad."
Conrad waved the thanks again. "It's never any trouble, Heika. Now, are you hungry?"
Yuuri turned away from the railing. "Yeah." He started walking and Conrad appeared at his side.
"You and Wolfram should let whatever will happen, happen," he said. "You're not in a hurry, are you?"
"No," Yuuri agreed, feeling much better than he had minutes ago. When they sat down for dinner, he would smile and treat Wolfram as though the blond's last outburst in the bedroom had never occurred.